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Lesson Transcript

Nick: Nick here. Welcome to PolishPod101.com Pronunciation Season 1, Lesson 1 - So Many Polish Consonants, So Few Polish Vowels.
Beata: "Witamy."
Nick: Welcome to our Pronunciation Series. In this lesson, we're going to start with the basics and slowly work our way up!
Beata: First, we'll talk about the Polish language in general, so that afterward we can move on to the Polish vowel system.
Nick: Using simple examples and exercises, we will teach you how to produce different vowels. You'll see that it's not that complicated after all.
Beata: A good foundation is what you need.
Nick: So, Beata, what can you tell us about the language itself?
Beata: The Polish language belongs to the Slavic family of languages, along with Russian, Slovak, and Macedonian. It's spoken by roughly thirty-eight million Poles living within its borders and by approximately ten million Poles who live abroad.
Nick: What does the Polish alphabet look like?
Beata: The Polish alphabet is based on the Roman alphabet, the same one that is used in English.
Nick: So, at least this part is easy.
Beata: It consists of nine vowels and twenty-three consonants, with some being very easy to pronounce and some being quite the opposite.
Nick: Today, we would like to focus on the Polish vowels. You already said that there are nine vowels. Let's listen to them.
Woman: "-a," "-e," "-i," "-o," "-u," "-ó," "-y," "-ę," "-ą"
Man: "-a," "-e," "-i," "-o," "-u," "-ó," "-y," "-ę," "-ą"
Beata: The first seven vowels, "-a," "-e," "-i," "-o," "-u," "-ó," and "-y," are the oral vowels, which means that they are produced within the mouth area. The vowels "-ą" and "-ę" are produced within the nose area, hence their name, the nasal vowels.
Nick: Let's first go through the oral vowels.
Beata: What's great about the oral vowels is that no matter what position they are in, they are always pronounced the same way.
Nick: This is contrary to the English vowels, which can have many possible pronunciations.
Beata: Depending on the place of articulation, oral vowels can be further divided into front, central, and back vowels.
Nick: Let's begin with the front vowels. Which ones are the front vowels?
Beata: The vowels "-i" (English "-i"), "-y" (English "-y"), and "-e" (English "-e") are the front vowels.
Nick: What exactly does the term "front vowel" mean?
Beata: Like we mentioned before, the term "front vowels" refers to the place of articulation, that is, to the place where those vowels are being produced. In the case of the front vowels, they are all produced within the front part of your mouth.
Nick: Could you give us some examples?
Beata: Please repeat after me…"-I" as in the English words "feet" and "meet."
Nick: "-I."
Beata: "-Y" as in "if" and "myth."
Nick: "-Y."
Beata: And "-e" as in "pen" and "ten."
Nick: "-E."
Beata: So once again, the front vowels are "-i" (English "-i"), "-y" (English "-y"), and "-e" (English "-e"). I don't know if you've noticed, but all those vowels are produced within the front part of your mouth..."-i," "-y," "-e."
Nick: Could you now give us some Polish examples with the front vowels?
Beata: Sure. I am going to say groups of three words each, each one having a different front vowel. Please repeat after me and try to make the same sounds…
"Mit" "Myt" "Met"
"Mi" "My" "Me"
"Nowi" "Nowy" "Nowe"
"Znani" "Znany" "Znane"
Nick: Okay, now let's move on to the central vowels.
Beata: Luckily for you, central vowels are only represented by one sound, and that is a wide-open sound "-a" (English "-a").
Nick: "-A."
Beata: Nick, would we be able to find the Polish sound [a] in any English words?
Nick: I think the closest pronunciation would be in words "father" and "body."
Beata: When pronouncing the vowel "-a," your mouth should be wide open…"-a."
Nick: And finally we have the back vowels, which are "-u" (English "-u"), "-ó" (no English written equivalent; however, it is pronounced the same as the English "-u"), and "-o" ("English "-o").
Beata: Great. So we have two back vowels in Polish that are spelled differently; however, they are pronounced identically.
Nick: Could you explain more?
Beata: Sure. The first one, a so-called open "-u," is spelled like a regular English "-u," whereas the other sound, a so-called closed "-ó," is spelled with the letter "-o" and an acute mark above it. They are both, however, pronounced the same way as "-u."
Nick: Any English examples that would illustrate their pronunciation?
Beata: Both the open "-u" and the closed "-ó" would be pronounced as the double [oo] in words such as "moon" or as "-u" in the word "dune."
Nick: Are the open "-u" and closed "-ó" used interchangeably?
Beata: No, they are not. There are certain spelling rules that dictate when to use each of these two vowels.
Nick: What about the third and last back vowel, "-o," (English "-o")? Any English examples?
Beata: The pronunciation of the letter "-o" in the English words such as "moment" and "slow" most resembles the way the Polish "-o" should be pronounced.
Nick: So, to sum it up, there are three back vowels in Polish…an open "-u," a closed "-ó," and "-o."
Beata: Just to check how much you remember so far from our lesson, we want you to repeat three words after me…"pić," "kuć," and "tyć."
Nick: "Pić," "kuć," "tyć."
Beata: You should start in the front part of your mouth with the first word, "pić," since "-i" (English "-i") belongs to the front vowels. Then…
Nick: when saying the word "kuć," your tongue should move to the back part of your mouth since the vowel "-u" represents the group of back vowels and…
Beata: finally, when producing the word "tyć," your tongue should be placed again up front because the vowel "-y" (English "-y") is a front vowel.
Nick: Great. So, with this exercise, we covered the seven oral vowels in Polish with three of them, "-i," "-y," and "-e," being the front vowels, one central vowel, "-a," and again three back vowels, an open "-u," a closed "-ó," and "-o."
Beata: Now it's time to talk a bit about nasal vowels.
Nick: Since there are only two of them, it shouldn't be so complicated, right?
Beata: We'll see. (laugh) Polish is the only language among all the other Slavic languages that still has nasal vowels. You can also find nasal vowels in languages like French. What's specific for those sounds it that the air vibrates mainly through the nose and produces a twangy sound.
Nick: What's the first nasal vowel?
Beata: It's "-ę."
Nick: "-Ę." Its written form is the letter "-e" with a little hook attached to it.
Beata: The other nasal vowel is "-ą."
Nick: "-Ą." This sound is represented by the letter "-a," also with a hook.
Beata: So, once again, the two nasal sounds in Polish are "-ę" and "-ą."
Nick: Are they always pronounced the same way, as "-ę" and "-ą," or does their pronunciation change?
Beata: Unfortunately, their pronunciation changes depending on the letter that follows the nasal vowels.
Nick: So we don't bore you, we will only give you a few examples. For additional information, please refer to the accompanying PDF for this lesson.
Beata: When both "-ę" and "-ą" appear before the consonant "-s," they keep their nasality. For example…"kęs," meaning "bite," or wąs, meaning "mustache."
Nick: When "-ę" appears before the consonant "-l," it's pronounced as "-e." For example…"kopnęli" ("they kicked"). In case of the vowel "-ą," if it appears in front of "-ł," it's pronounced as "-o." For instance…"dotknął" ("he touched").
Beata: If the nasal vowel "-ę" appears at the end of a word, you can pronounce it either as a nasal vowel "-ę" or as a front oral vowel "-e." For example…the word "się" can be pronounced as "sie" or "się." Both pronunciations are correct. In the case of the vowel "-ą," if it appears at the end, it's always pronounced nasally as "-ą." For example…"idą" or "siedzą."
Nick: Don't worry if you're not able to remember all those examples and rules. It will come with practice and time.
Beata: Absolutely! The more you listen to people speak, the easier and easier it's going to be for you.
Nick: All right, so we've covered all the vowels in Polish and the way they're pronounced.
Beata: So keep practicing and don't give up!
Nick: Remember, you can leave us a comment on this lesson.
Beata: So if you have a question or some feedback, please leave us a comment!
Nick: It's very easy to do. Just stop by PolishPod101.com,
Beata: ...click on comments,
Nick: ...enter your comment and name,
Beata: ...and that's it!
Nick: No excuses. We're looking forward to hearing from you!
Beata: "Cześć."
Nick: Bye.


Please to leave a comment.
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PolishPod101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
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Hi PolishPod101.com Listeners! What vowels do you find the most difficult to pronounce?

PolishPod101.com Verified
Sunday at 08:35 PM
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Cześć Ben,

Thank you for studying with us.

It is as you said, in deed. The more you practice, the better you are.

Good luck!



Team PolishPod101.com

Wednesday at 09:39 AM
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The ę and ą are the hardest to pronounce to me, but only because I'm not used to using nasal vowels. Once I get some practice in, I think they should be easier to pronounce.

PolishPod101.com Verified
Thursday at 09:04 PM
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Hi Dean,

Thank you for studying with us


[E~] , [E], and [Em] indicate how to pronounce "ę" when it is in the particular part of the word,

for example at the end of the word or before -p, -b.

Hope it helps!



Team PolishPod101.com

Tuesday at 04:10 AM
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I'm not clear as to when ę or ą are pronounced with the nasal sound. In the chart with the headings:

When the vowel -ę is before the following letters we pronounce -ę Examples

I don't understand the middle column. For example, what do [E~] , [E], and [Em] mean? I want to be sure I learn the rules correctly the first time.

Thank you

PolishPod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 12:59 PM
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Hi Christa Fischer,

Thank you for studying with us!

Feel free to let us know if you have any questions.


Team PolishPod101.com

Christa Fischer
Wednesday at 11:57 AM
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The most difficult vowel is e with a hook. I have to listen very carefully what sound it is,

Thank you.

Thank you for providing later on the transcript to this lesson.

PolishPod101.com Verified
Saturday at 10:51 PM
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Hi Walter,

The Lesson Transcript has been added to the lesson. Please check it :)

In case of any questions, please feel free to contact us.



Team PolishPod101.com

PolishPod101.com Verified
Saturday at 12:02 PM
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Hi Walter Retko,

Thank you for posting.

The transcript for this lesson will be added soon!

Thank you for your patience.



Team PolishPod101.com

walter Retko
Tuesday at 10:08 AM
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The vocal part of this lesson does not follow the visulal part of this lesson., Only has lesson notes , no dialogue

Lesson " So many consonents, so few vowels"

PolishPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 04:01 AM
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Hi Carline

Thank you for your interest in our Polish lessons! We certainlyhope it does get tothe bottom of problems. But if you have any questions about the lesson, please feel free to ask, we will be happy to help!:)



Team PolishPod101.com